Ever since his debut in 1983's 'Max Dugan Returns,' Matthew Broderick has made a career out of playing intelligent, congenial characters that despite, or perhaps because of, minor shortcomings, always felt like the consummate best friend or shoulder to cry on. Yet it's darker films like 'Election,' 'The Cable Guy' and his latest, 'Wonderful World,' that have been responsible for some of the actor's best work, as Broderick injects each character with moral ambiguity and complex decisions.

As Ben Singer in 'World,' Broderick's dichotomous personalities both come through. On the surface, Singer is a divorced, failed singer who hates the outside world and all it encompasses. But when his roommate Ibou (Michael K. Williams) ends up hospitalized, it's Singer's selfless efforts that help alleviate Ibou's situation. Broderick alleviated our itch for answers on 'World,' a 'Ferris Bueller' sequel and more.
Ever since his debut in 1983's 'Max Dugan Returns,' Matthew Broderick has made a career out of playing intelligent, congenial characters that despite, or perhaps because of, minor shortcomings, always felt like the consummate best friend or shoulder to cry on. Yet it's darker films like 'Election,' 'The Cable Guy' and his latest, 'Wonderful World,' that have been responsible for some of the actor's best work, as Broderick injects each character with moral ambiguity and complex decisions.

As Ben Singer in 'World,' Broderick's dichotomous personalities both come through. On the surface, Singer is a divorced, failed singer who hates the outside world and all it encompasses. But when his roommate Ibou (Michael K. Williams) ends up hospitalized, it's Singer's selfless efforts that help alleviate Ibou's situation. Broderick alleviated our itch for answers on 'World,' a 'Ferris Bueller' sequel and more.

Ben Singer is a misanthropic, brutally honest curmudgeon. What was it about him that attracted him to you?
[Director Josh Goldin] and I have been good friends since we were in our 20s but our professional lives never crossed. Suddenly, he had a script that he wrote that he wanted to direct and was like, "This would be good for you." I was naturally frightened I wouldn't like it but luckily I did. It's not that I said "I have to play this part." I just thought it was a really interesting story and character.

Does working with someone that close to you make it easier or harder for you on the set?
It made it much easier because we know each other's sensibility and think the same thing is funny. He would never have an idea that I wouldn't think was good and he's very sure of himself and doesn't panic.

How much of the character did you want to develop and how much was already on paper?
I think it was all there. I never said, "You should develop this." But I think partly because I'm used to doing plays, I tend to look at scripts as things I have to try to make work. My first reaction isn't, "Oh this would be good if I wasn't a waiter; I should be a bowling champion." But if I see an area that I feel uncomfortable with, I will tell someone and sometimes it's helpful. His writing is personal, so I just wanted to give it the best airing that I could.

He has said he wrote it with you in mind. What did you bring personally to the role or do you try to distance yourself from whatever character you're portraying?
I always try to bring as much as myself as I can. Josh and I are both New Yorkers from the 1970s. Josh was stabbed on a train and I was held up with guns several times so we're pre-Disney. We're the old kind of bitter, rotten New Yorkers (laughs).

Josh called Ben a "flawed, wrongheaded hero." Do you agree and what do you think are his heroic qualities?
I do. He tries to, in his own way, be truthful to people and deal in reality. It's wrongheaded, but he doesn't manipulate people or trick anybody. I think he's been through a miserable period. His job sucks. He has no friends and he doesn't want any, but he probably wasn't always at this level. There have definitely been circumstances that have happened that have made him like this and I also think it's a little bit wired into him. Josh said that he comes from a long line of cynics and said to me, "You do too." He thinks we're both from (pauses) that kind of stock.

Is that the New Yorker in you or the Broderick in you?
It's typical to New York but also the way you were brought up, with liberals who just think businesses are trying to crush them to death all the time.




When deciding on roles, do you think about how it will be perceived?
A little bit. There's a bunch of elements: I want to work with people who I would like to work with and take a part that I have some feeling and instinct for, but I do think [the role] should appeal to the better nature of people to some degree. There are things I wouldn't want to exploit and be comfortable doing. I like to do stuff that I wouldn't mind my mom seeing. I wouldn't want violence, for example, for no reason at all.

Looking back on your career, are there any roles you'd be interested in returning to in a sequel?
I think I'd be too old for most of them. We always talked about doing a 'Ferris Bueller' sequel, but we never really got it together to do it.

You know this year would be his 40th birthday, right?
Would it? I thought he was as old as me. [Broderick turns 48 in March.]

What do you think his life would be like now?
I don't think it's so pretty. I don't know if it would be anything that we would want to know about. Poor John Hughes died. I wish he was around because he might have a good idea, but I think he would be living in a rich house near where he grew up. I bet he would be exactly like his parents.

You made your professional stage debut in 'On Valentine's Day' when you were 17 with your father James. What was your most vivid memory of that experience?
I was still in school and had had only done plays in school at that point. It was a teeny little theater and I was very intimidated by my father who announced to me that since we were in a play together, I shouldn't ask him to help me because we were playing different roles. There was some stupid rule about that. I remember I had to do a Southern accent which I wasn't very good at, but my father was. He had to be very angry at me in the play, and every time he'd yell at me in this crazy Southern accent with the old-fashioned clothing on, I always found it amusing. I never found him believable for a split-second.

Did you ever tell him that?
No. (Laughs) But whatever age I was, I was just like, "Dad, you look like an absolute fool."